The Only Exploratory Testing Checklist You Need

Did you know fixing a software problem after delivery can cost 100 times more than catching it during the requirements or design phase? Are you frustrated by those elusive bugs that only show up in specific scenarios? If so, it's time to consider exploratory testing.

In this article, we created the exploratory testing checklist and explained how to implement it according to your needs. Let's start!

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What is exploratory testing?

Exploratory testing is a hands-on software testing technique in which testers learn, design, and execute tests on the fly without following prewritten scripts. This method values the tester's freedom and responsibility, allowing them to use their creativity and intuition to uncover defects and inconsistencies in the software.


In exploratory testing, testers interact spontaneously with the system, like users, to identify potential issues that might arise during real-world use. The goal is to mimic the freedom and preferences of end users, focusing on learning and curiosity.

This approach requires minimal upfront planning, as testers continuously decide their next steps based on their insights and observations.

Exploratory testing can also effectively uncover subtle issues that more structured testing methods might miss, providing a valuable complement to traditional testing processes.

Pro tip

Global App Testing helps identify critical bugs outside traditional test cases by simulating natural customer behavior through exploratory testing. This approach improves the robustness of your QA by finding unknowns and edge-case bugs that might otherwise go unnoticed. The process is streamlined and efficient, allowing immediate testing without setups and delivering faster results than traditional coordinated tests.


Furthermore, exploratory testing excels at uncovering edge case bugs specific to unusual inputs or user behaviors at the periphery of normal product use. This method is both quick and straightforward: you can initiate exploratory tests immediately without the need for setup or coordination and receive results even faster than the typical 48-hour turnaround for coordinated tests.

Types of exploratory testing

Exploratory testing is beneficial when there is uncertainty about the software's purpose or how it will be used in real-life scenarios. Testers might start without any plan and adjust their approach based on their discoveries as they go along. This flexibility allows them to understand and test the software more naturally.


There are 3 types of exploratory testing that testers use:

  1. Freestyle exploratory testing – As the name suggests, this approach doesn't follow any specific rules or guidelines, giving testers the freedom to interact with the application however they choose. However, this doesn't mean it's random. Testers use their experience and intuition to develop a mental strategy before testing.
  2. Scenario-based exploratory testing – This method focuses on real-user scenarios. The QA team tests one scenario at a time, examining it from all angles. It's a more structured approach compared to freestyle testing.
  3. Strategy-based exploratory testing – This approach is guided by an overarching strategy. To conduct exploratory testing, testers use various techniques, such as boundary value analysis, equivalence partitioning, risk-based testing, and error guessing.

Benefits of exploratory testing


Challenges of Exploratory Testing in Agile

While exploratory testing has many benefits, it also presents some challenges that teams need to address:

  • Lack of documentation – Exploratory testing often involves less documentation than scripted testing. This can result in less traceability, making it harder to reproduce and track issues over time.
  • Consistency – Exploratory testing's unscripted nature can lead to inconsistency. Since it relies heavily on the tester's judgment and intuition, different testers might have varying opinions defining critical defects, or usability issues can be subjective, leading to varying assessments.
  • Potential coverage concerns – Without predefined test cases, there's a risk of missing important test scenarios or overlooking specific requirements. This is particularly true if testers are not experienced or well-informed about the project's scope.
  • Scalability – As a project grows, maintaining consistent exploratory testing practices across multiple teams and iterations can become challenging.

How to perform exploratory testing – checklist

1. Create a bug taxonomy

Bug taxonomy categorizes software bugs based on their attributes and characteristics, providing a structured way to understand, analyze, and manage them. Here are some basic bug categories to consider:

1. Severity

  • High impact – Severely affects system performance or security, causing crashes, data loss, or critical vulnerabilities.
  • Medium impact – This type of issue causes noticeable issues but does not halt system operations. It might affect functionality or performance, but it has workarounds.
  • Low impact – Minor bugs that do not significantly affect system performance or security. These might include cosmetic issues or slight deviations from specifications.


2. Priority

  • High urgency – These bugs need immediate attention due to their impact on critical functionality or security. They are often blockers for product release.
  • Medium urgency – These should be addressed but are not critical for immediate release. They are scheduled for upcoming sprints or versions.
  • Low urgency – Bugs that are less important and can be fixed later. They often include minor inconveniences or low-risk issues.

3. Reproducibility

  • Reproducible – Can be consistently reproduced following specific steps. These are easier to debug and fix.
  • Intermittent – Occurs sporadically, making them harder to track and resolve. They might be influenced by specific conditions or timing.
  • Non-reproducible – Can not be reproduced consistently or at all. These require more investigation and might be closed if not confirmed.
  • Cannot reproduce – Bugs were reported but were not reproducible with the provided information. Validation often requires additional data or steps.

4. Root cause

  • Coding error – Problems arise from mistakes in the code, such as syntax errors, logic flaws, or incorrect implementation.
  • Design flaw – Caused by issues in the system design, such as poor architecture decisions or incorrect requirements.
  • Configuration issue – Bugs resulting from incorrect system or environment configuration, including misconfigurations in servers, databases, or user settings.
  • User error – This error occurs due to users' incorrect system usage, often indicating a need for better user interface design or documentation.

5. Bug type

  • Functional bugs affect the system's core functionality, causing it not to perform as expected.
  • Performance issues degrade the system's performance, causing slowdowns, high resource usage, or unresponsiveness.
  • Usability problems affect the user experience and make the system difficult or confusing.
  • Security vulnerabilities expose the system to security risks, such as data breaches, unauthorized access, or exploits.
  • Compatibility errors occur due to incompatibilities with different operating systems, browsers, devices, or other software.

2. Create a test charter

A test charter is a focused document that outlines a specific testing session's goals, scope, and approach. While similar to a test plan, it has a narrower scope. For exploratory testing, a test charter should include:

  • Objectives – Clearly outline the goals and targets the testing team aims to achieve.
  • Approach – Provide an overview of the testing methodology and how the testing activities will be carried out.
  • Scope – Define the boundaries and extent of the testing activities, including what will and will not be included.
  • Test deliverables – List the documents and artifacts produced during the testing process.
  • Dependencies – Identify any external factors, requirements, or prerequisites necessary for the testing to proceed.
  • Test environment – Plan and define the necessary hardware, software, and network configuration required for the testing activities.

While freestyle exploratory testing may not need a test charter, scenario-based and strategy-based sessions will benefit from one. It helps improve collaboration and includes the taxonomies defined earlier for better management of newly discovered defects.


3. Define the time box

Exploratory testing activities are restricted by a specific time limit, known as the Time Box. This helps testers stay focused and prevents them from spending too much time on a single aspect of the system. By setting a clear time frame, testers can maximize their efforts to identify critical bugs and pinpoint major areas for improvement.

During the time box, testers record and describe any found bugs in detail using predefined taxonomies. They then submit the bug to a bug management system, where its status is set to "New." Developers investigate and attempt to reproduce the bugs locally before working on a fix.

4. Review and interpret results

After testing, testers can compare the results against key metrics such as customer feedback, usage statistics, and system performance data. These metrics help them understand the effectiveness of the tests, identify system defects, and gain insights into the product's strengths and weaknesses.

The review process also serves several important purposes:

  • Identifying gaps in the testing process.
  • Guiding the creation of new requirements and user stories.
  • Sometimes leads to modifications in the scope of the system to be developed or tested.
  • Helping managers and stakeholders make informed decisions.
  • Allowing testers to identify patterns and trends in testing outcomes can help predict and address potential issues in the future.

Tools for exploratory testing

While there aren't specific "exploratory testing tools" because it's more about the approach and mindset, certain tools can enhance the exploratory testing process. These include:

  • Bug tracking toolsThese tools help testers track and manage defects found during exploratory testing. They keep both testers and developers updated on the current bug status.
  • Test management toolsEven though exploratory testing doesn't use predefined test cases, test management tools are valuable. They help testers plan, organize, and track their testing activities. Without these tools, it can be challenging to replicate bugs in future releases.
  • Session recording tools – These tools allow testers to record their interactions with the software in real-time. This documentation is useful for sharing findings with the team and helping developers reproduce bugs locally.
  • Cross-browser testing toolsThese tools are essential for testing the application on different combinations of browsers, devices, and operating systems without needing multiple physical machines.

How can Global App Testing help you?

Global App Testing specializes in crowd testing and offers a variety of services to help with exploratory tests to ensure the highest quality checks.


Here is why you should choose Global App Testing to assist you in the exploratory testing process:

  • Trusted by industry leaders – As the oldest crowdtesting provider, we've earned the trust of major tech companies like Google, Meta, Microsoft, and Atlassian. They rely on our deep specialization and robust security measures.
  • Unmatched security – We are the only crowdtesting provider with ISO 27001 security certification, ensuring the safety of your data and product roadmap.
  • Efficient workflow – Our priority software dashboard makes sending and receiving tests easy. It integrates seamlessly with tools like Jira, Smartbear Zephyr, TestRail, GitHub, and Slack, streamlining your testing process.
  • Global tester pool – With over 90,000 testers in more than 190 countries, we offer a diverse range of devices, versions, and demographics.
  • High availability – Our testers span multiple time zones, allowing you to launch tests anytime and get quick results, fitting seamlessly into agile sprints.
  • Balance of speed and thoroughness – While slower than automated tests, crowdtesting offers significant advantages over other manual testing methods, balancing speed with comprehensive coverage.

Schedule a call today and learn more about how GAT can help you create the best product!

We can help you drive exploratory testing as a key initiative aligned to your business goals

Contact us

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